The Trial Of The Mind
By: Nancy
December 2, 2014

I love a good courtroom drama. Stories like “A Few Good Men” and “To Kill A Mockingbird” offer a lot to think about as well as some good suspense. I have recently begun using a courtroom analogy to explain a difficult concept to see in ourselves, something that we all do completely subconsciously until it is brought to our attention, and even then, we still do it for awhile yet, because it is so difficult to stop. It’s not a pretty trait, but there is plenty of grace to be had, because we have ALL done it. Ready to jump in?

The Case

Let’s start with the case that’s being heard in the courtroom. defendentThis trial is held in your mind, unbeknownst to anyone else, including yourself unless you’re really paying attention. The subject of the case is your most painful wound, an excruciating “truth” that you learned about yourself by trying to determine who you are through your interpretation of your parents’, siblings’, or caregivers’ actions toward you as you were growing up. Did you have a parent who was very critical and told you that you could do little or nothing right? This becomes your case…”I never get told I do things right, so will I ever be good enough for someone to stick around?” Perhaps you had a parent or siblings who weren’t around very much, or didn’t want you around very much. Then your case becomes “No one wants me around, so am I lovable or not?” Maybe your caregivers were super strict about having good behaviors, so your case becomes “Can I ever be good enough to be worthy and acceptable?” There can be other variations, and multiple trials going on at once, but these are some very common ones.

The Attorneys

Next, we have to try the case, and many of us spend a lifetime doing so. First, there is the prosecution who takes the stance that agrees with the wound or hurtful “truth”. For example, it could sound like, “No, you’re not good enough, lovable, acceptable, or wanted.” Then the defense attorney takes the opposite position…”Yes, I am good enough, lovable, acceptable, and wanted.” Because we have imperfect parents, siblings, and caregivers, the prosecution always inevitably has a myriad of evidence at hand. We are particularly susceptible to collecting this kind of evidence when we are kiddos, and we usually believe the worst, misunderstand a lot (because we are inexperienced egomaniacs when we are little, which causes us to exaggerate it greatly), and we remember very little of the good stuff. Have you ever heard the saying, “It takes 1,000 positive comments to undo one negative one”? There is quite a bit of truth to that. So the prosecution has lots of warped, exaggerated, and misunderstood evidence. Such is the nature of these types of cases.

The Trial

Now we take our cases into adulthood with us, and we set about to gather evidence for the defense. If my wound is that I’m not good enough, I might work to gather evidence that I am by over-giving of myself (codependency). This type of evidence collector cannot say “no” to others. They initiate a trade in most every circumstance. It would be common to hear some sort of variation of this coming from them…“Of course, I’ll make 12 dozen cookies for the bake sale, staying up all night and ignoring my own needs, if you will think I am amazing and tell me how much you appreciate me.” Then when the appreciation is received, a piece of evidence for the defense has been collected. If it’s not received, resentment builds. The primary motivation is to collect evidence for the trial, not to actually give freely with no strings. This is…and I’m sorry to be so harsh…a manipulation. Not pretty, is it. (Remember, we all do this until we learn not to. There is grace for everyone.)

If we learn to cope with the wound or warped “truth” of the prosecution a little differently, we can handle our evidence gathering differently. It looks like some degree of narcissism (called counterdependency…and narcissism is like counterdependency on steroids. Although not everyone who could be considered counterdependent is a narcissist, if we exaggerate this to the level of narcissism, it’s easier to see.) Narcissists engage in relationships in the world looking to prove to everyone, really to themselves, that they are indeed “good enough”. The vibe is “see how awesome I am?” Their trial is front and center of their behavioral landscape. All their behaviors are devoted to gathering evidence for the defense…proving they are good enough.

Folks usually choose one way or the other to deal with the pain of their trial and their strategy for evidence gathering. They are both 2 sides of the same coin, however, and however far you swing to one side on this pendulum of reactivity, you are capable of swinging that far to the other. Whichever way you primarily choose to deal with your trial, they are both equally reactive. Differentiation, by the way, is about finding the middle, the balance between the two, and by doing so, removing the reactivity.

The Effects on Relationships and Self

When we go about life with the mission of collecting evidence, aka manipulating others to give proof to our defense attorney, we get ourselves into all kinds of trouble. By the way, people can feel you gathering evidence from them, and they don’t like it! No one likes to be controlled and manipulated, and it is not a safe way to be in relationship with others. We can give way too much to the point of exhaustion and unbalance, or otherwise alienate those we love with an over-abundance of pride and ego. The constant state of reactivity creates in us a deep-seated anxiety. Anxiety that we will be left alone forever to die, or that we will be deemed in whatever way “not good enough to be loved.” This fear rocks us to the core, because we are hard-wired needing connection. When the hope fades that the trial will ever be over or that the jury will ever find in our favor (that we are lovable or otherwise acceptable), the result is a deep depression.

The Verdict

The first step is realizing that the trial exists. The next step is finding the courage and humility to admit that you have expected others to give you evidence for a trial that is happening in your mind and based on your wounds. gavelAfter that, the next step is to stop collecting and expecting this evidence from others and start deciding your lovability and acceptability for yourself…which is accomplished by reprocessing your ancient wounds through your less ego-filled and more fully-developed emotional processing centers: grieving what you didn’t get, letting go of perceptions formed in childhood, receiving grace by believing the real truth that you are lovable and acceptable for no other reason than because you are (imperfections and all), and then watching every relationship you have begin to heal and flourish by giving that same grace to others. A summary judgment is handed down. Jury dismissed.

There is nothing fast or easy about this, and it’s nearly impossible to see this stuff in yourself and learn a new way of relating with others without some guidance and a lot of practice. You may very well need the help of an insightful and courageous therapist to help you see and process all of it. At Healing Hearts, we can help you with that. Please feel free to email us at [email protected] to set up an appointment. Your first 30-minute session is free. What do you have to lose? Come in, meet me in person, get a feel for it, and see if this journey is right for you. Thanks for reading!

Healing Hearts provides counseling services to the surrounding communities of Indianapolis, Fishers, Carmel, Zionsville, Westfield, Noblesville, and Geist. Call or text today to set up your appointment. 317-218-3038

© 2014 Nancy Eisenman, MSW, LSW

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